It’s finally (almost) here: the beginning of the NFL regular season. The preseason is over, fantasy teams are drafted and we’re ready to see what our new squads are made of.
The Cowboys will head to the Meadowlands to take on the Giants on Wednesday night. Fortunately for fantasy football fans, both of these teams contain plenty of offensive firepower.
It’s an NFC East divisional matchup, so there’s plenty of recent history to provide statistical baselines.
Here’s a position-by-position overview of what I expect to see in this contest.
I wouldn’t start either team's defense this week. In ESPN standard scoring, the Giants’ defense scored 16 fantasy points against the Cowboys in two games in 2011.
The Cowboys’ defense came up with negative-seven.
No, thank you.
This matchup has all the makings of a legitimate shootout.
In Tony Romo’s last three full games against New York (Week 13 in 2009 and both games in 2011), the Cowboys quarterback threw an average of 334 yards per game with nine touchdowns and one interception.
Eli Manning handled his business, as well. He has been more turnover-prone than Romo in these match-ups. But in his last four regular season appearances against the Cowboys, the Giants passer averaged 356.3 yards to go along with 11 touchdowns and six interceptions.
All of those passing yards and scores have to go somewhere.
Miles Austin participated in a full practice session on Saturday, according to Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com. NFL.com’s Dan Hanzus reports that Bryant was also a full participant, and there’s even talk of him returning punts against the Giants.
That bears watching if your league rewards points for return yards.
As for the Cowboys’ No. 3 WR battle, we’ll still have to wait and see who shows up in that role on Wednesday. Whoever it will be is well worth a speculative waiver claim going forward.
Both Austin and Bryant are worth starting in the overwhelming majority of fantasy leagues, as the Giants will already be without two key cornerbacks in this game. Terrell Thomas is on the IR and Prince Amukamara is dealing with a high ankle sprain suffered in the third week of the preseason.
The Cowboys should be able to put up points in bunches this game. The Giants will have to keep up. Hakeem Nicks looks to be on track to play Wednesday (from Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPNNewYork.com). The same goes for Victor Cruz, who played in the Giants’ final three preseason games.
Each of those guys is worth a spot as a fantasy starter this week.
Rueben Randle should contribute to New York’s passing game, but probably not enough to warrant starting in fantasy lineups Week 1.
DeMarco Murray is set to return from injury to start his sophomore season as the Dallas Cowboys’ featured running back. As long as he is healthy, he’s a fantasy starter.
The Giants’ replaced the Brandon Jacobs portion of their running back tandem with first-rounder David Wilson. They likely won’t have to evade defensive tackle Jay Ratliff on Wednesday, as Ratliff is also recovering from a high ankle sprain (from Nick Eatman of CBSSports.com).
Wilson has obvious talent, but Bradshaw is the incumbent starter and should be the only one of the two Giant backs to be a fantasy starter Week 1. Until we know how the rushing workload will be divided between the two, Bradshaw likely remains the only viable fantasy option at RB in New York.
Look for Wilson to make a few plays on Wednesday and cloud the Giants’ fantasy backfield situation going forward.
If Jason Witten plays this game after suffering a lacerated spleen just three weeks ago, it will be the stuff of legends.
If he makes a major offensive impact, it would be even more remarkable. The mere sound of the words “lacerated spleen” makes me want to cringe. There are enough other tight ends to consider in Week 1 that Witten can be on your fantasy bench.
The Giants’ Martellus Bennett might be worth a spot-start in Week 1 if you own Witten or a high-upside fantasy tight end that you’re just not sure about yet.
He is new to New York.
But his former team is the Cowboys, who Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News reports that he seems highly motivated to beat.